Sunday, March 29, 2015

Photo-of-the-Week #204 Partying with the Phoenicians, Phoenix, Arizona, March 25, 2015

Normally, my photo-of-the-week posts are of some scenic sight or point of interest. This week I've taken a different course. I always tell people that my true wealth, besides the time I have on this Earth, is my friends. And, here are some of my friends. I rolled into Phoenix sent out an email and had hoped to find a time to get together with each of my friends individually, fitting into their busy schedules. Lo and behold, they all got together and just like that, we had a small party put together. . . READ MORE

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Good Morning, Phoenix

I arrived in Phoenix, Arizona about 8 PM last night. As I expected, while rush hour was long over, the Interstate and main roads in this city located in the middle of the desert were packed with cars, all, seemingly, in a hurry to get somewhere. The question always crosses my mind when I arrive in virtually any major or medium sized city (and more and more, even in small cities) where is everyone going? . . . READ MORE 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Photo-of-the-Week #203 The RV Village at the Quechan Casino, Winterhaven, California, March 21, 2015

This photo shows a small portion of the RV, vandweller and truck parking area at the Quechan Casino on the Quechan Indian Reservation near Winterhaven, California and Yuma, Arizona. The casino is behind where I was standing when I took this photo and is a beautiful resort hotel and casino with good restaurants and live entertainment. It's located on Algodones Road and is located just a mile and a half from the U.S. - Mexican border at the small town of Los Algodones, Sonora, Mexico. . . READ MORE

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Photo-of-the-Week - Sunrise-Sunset, near Quartzsite, Arizona, January 15, 2015


"Sunrise, sunset, sunrise, sunset, swiftly fly the years . . ." I'm sure you remember that familiar refrain from the award winning Broadway musical "Fiddler on the Roof." Those words passed through my mind's eyes as I was extracting this week's photos for this post. As you know, I love shooting sunrises and sunsets and that's no different here in this part of the Sonoran Desert outside Quartzsite, Arizona. . . SEE MORE PHOTOS & READ MORE

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Expect The Unexpected

One interesting facet of life is that the old sayings, "The best laid plans of mice and men, often go astray" taken from a Robert Burns poem and "Whatever can go wrong will go wrong," a popular variation of Murphy's infamous law, are almost a given at some and ,usually, many times during one's life.

Some people will say that I'm spouting negative thinking. I beg to differ. I say I'm simply stating a fact of life, negative or positive. If these two statements have never applied at any time during your lifetime to this date, then you're overdue and you have a lot of catching up to do. Life is not perfect and it certainly isn't fair. However, one could (and really should) say the variety of challenges and difficult times we face and work our way through is what makes life interesting. They help us grow to be the strong, capable, competent people most of us become.

So, I simply suggest you accept that you need to . . .

Expect The Unexpected!

This is reality. The unexpected lurks around every corner, over every hill, behind every tree and from, well, the most unexpected places, people and circumstances. This is obviously why they are called unexpected. Even the best of the control freaks among us simply can't control every possibility. Life is just what it is. A giant serendipity and not all the things that befall us are positive.

On January 4, 2015, I was driving on I-5 through an area known as "The Grape Vine." This is a winding and pretty steep section of the interstate highway going over the mountain between the San Joaquin Valley and the San Fernando Valley leading into the Los Angeles basin. As I was progressing westbound up the steep, winding road to the 4,200 foot Tejon pass through the top of the mountain range, I felt the engine losing power. I stayed to the right in the slower truck lane. At about 2,400 feet, the engine failed. I lost all power and fortunately was able to pull off into a large area designed for the 18 wheelers and dual trailer trucks. I was in a safe place.

So, there it was. The unexpected. Did I expect it? Sort of, but not really. I realized that the engine was acting a little peculiar for a while, even on the continental crossing. But, I didn't expect a profound engine failure. Yet, here I was, 84 miles from my Los Angeles area destination and well over a hundred miles from the place I departed from in Clovis, California. I let the engine rest and cool down for about a half hour. I restarted the engine and it ran. It was noisier than before. When I put the transmission in Drive, the van moved forward, but, it had no power. I contemplated my options for a few minutes and decided I'd attempt to limp the 84 miles to my destination. I pulled the van onto the shoulder of I-5 and the best speed I could muster was about 10 mph with occasional spurts to 15 mph on the uphill grade.

I made it up the steep hill and through the pass. On the downhill side gravity would help the van achieve about 45 to 50 mph. So, I pressed on.

More Unexpected

I wasn't a happy traveler, but at least I felt confident I could limp to my destination and address this unexpected engine problem the next day, a Monday. Then, all of a sudden, now on I-405 and a mere 15 miles from my destination, I felt the sickening feeling of a flat tire. Again, I was fortunate enough to be next to a very wide pull off area. I got out, walked around the van, and sure enough, the brand new (less than 225 miles on it) right, rear tire was flat. So, this time I called AAA. It took a little over an hour for someone to arrive and change the tire to the spare.

Back on the road again, the four hour drive stretched to about eight hours when I finally arrived at my destination. The unexpected continued as I learned I was going to either need another engine or to have my engine rebuilt. Then to twist the knife of fate a little deeper, once the engine was rebuilt it seemed to be "possessed" by some kind of "demon." The engine technicians who rebuilt the engine tried everything and every trick in the book to find the problem and exorcise it. weeks then a month and then nearly two months went by before the demon was found and the engine (and van) were finally ready to get me back on the road, almost two months behind my "loose" schedule.

The Moral of the Story

This post is about expecting the unexpected. And, believe me, the  misfortunes I experienced were unexpected. But, with 70 years of my life to fall back on, indeed, even though these were unexpected events, I dealt with them as though I did expect them.

This is not the only incident like this I've experienced. Over my lifetime I can relate tens of experiences. And, if I really wanted to list and count them, it would probably exceed a hundred. Some of them were major life changing events like the death of my father at age 42 (I was 21) at his own hand. Another was my son, barely a toddler at the time, pulling a cup of scalding hot coffee on himself despite extreme efforts to place that cup in a location he couldn't reach. Another was the demise of my first marriage after nearly 20 years together. Even more unexpected was the demise of my second marriage after only seven months. Then there was the diagnosis and nearly fatal case of lymphoma of my third major relationship and the painful demise of that relationship after I nursed her back to health. There was my own diagnosis of prostate cancer culminating in the first and only major surgery of my life. And, then there was my son's emergency surgery for a ruptured spleen at age 15 while living with me, a single parent.

Yes! Life is full of all kinds of unexpected events. I'm sure you can enumerate many of them yourself. The unexpected is what shapes and molds us as individuals. It is these tests of our mettle that determines how we will succeed, muddle through or fail in life. There is another old saying that goes, "God never presents you with any challenges you can't handle." Some of these unexpected events may seem impossible on first examination. Most of us find the strength, courage and motivation to face them down and come out stronger on the other side.

Some of these unexpected experiences will actually be what we might refer to as serendipities. Not all unexpected events and experiences are negative. Many are positive and may be just as life changing as the negative experiences. Additionally, there is frequently a silver lining on the other side of that unexpected "dark cloud." You simply have to be looking for it as you tackle the unexpected.

Here's my current bottom line. I'm writing this article sitting next to My McVansion that's providing me with shade in the Arizona desert near the small town of  Quartzsite. The sky is deep blue, with a few white clouds. The sun is bright. The temperature is about 90 degrees, but in the shade with a pleasant breeze, I'm about as comfortable as I'd be in an air conditioned building. At night the temperature dips into the low to mid 60's and the huge, clear sky reveals a billion, billion stars. I'm camped here with several other full-time, vandwelling nomads who are now friends. We've enjoyed a couple days of camaraderie, sharing ideas, knowledge and experiences. Had I arrived here two months ago when I had originally intended to be here there would have been hundreds of people here. I look at it this way, these are the people I was meant to meet.

Additionally, I got to spend two months with my son, more time together than we've spent together in the past 11+ years. What a blessing that turned out to be. I just spent four days in the Palm Springs area getting to know a person who could be considered my step daughter along with her family. Then I had the opportunity to spend time with my former wife, my son's mother. We've maintained a friendship for the past 25 years since we went our separate ways. Before I left for the desert, my son arrived and the three of us shared a dinner together. I left for the desert. My son left to go back to Los Angeles to catch his flight to Istanbul, Turkey, where he sent me a text from to let me know he arrived safe and sound.

Expect the unexpected. And, when the unexpected makes itself known, deal with the issues and look for the "silver lining" on the other side. 

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Photo-of-the-Week #201 Skechers Factory Store, Moreno Valley, California, March 2015

This week's photo of the week was taken just yesterday. As I was driving from Hawthorne, California to Palm Springs, California on Friday evening, I passed one of the largest warehouse structures I've ever seen. It was along CA-60 Between Long Beach and Palm Springs in an area (town) named Moreno Valley.

Now, when I say this warehouse was huge, I really mean HUGE. The recently constructed and opened facility housing the warehouse and distribution center for the second largest U.S. shoe company, Skechers. This structure encloses 1,820,000 square feet. Yes, I wrote it and your read it correctly, 1.82 million square feet. It's so long that it takes 30 seconds at 60 miles per hour to pass from one end to the other on the freeway. As a comparison, large, enclosed shopping malls range from 500,000 to 1,000,000 square feet. . . READ MORE

Friday, March 6, 2015

My McVansion Update: Prepping to Leave Los Angeles

Today is the seventh day since I regained possession of My McVansion. It was finally discharged from the Heart (Engine) Hospital last Saturday. Since then, I've been driving it around the area to regain confidence in the "heart."

On Monday I drove it to the nearest Walmart with a tire center to have them repair or replace the brand new tire (of two) that I had installed the day before the engine failed. The tire went flat after picking up a load of metal debris on the shoulder of I-405 (or The 405 as they call it out here) just 15 miles from my son's place in Hawthorne. To recap, I drove the van on the interstate shoulder at 10 to 15 mph after the engine failed on the way up the mountain. It was 84 miles from the western side of the mountain to go through the Tejon Pass at 4,200 feet from the San Joaquin Valley into the San Fernando Valley. . . READ MORE